You probably don't know this about me, as I never blog and only rarely tweet about it, but I'm a pretty big fan of college basketball. While I didn't really watch much of it this year (due to, you know, having exams to study for and papers to write), I did still follow it with great interest throughout the year. And now it's time for the best three weeks in all of sports, and I thought I'd share my picks with you. I do this mostly so that if Belmont makes it to the Sweet Sixteen this year, I have proof that I did in fact make that pick. It probably won't (while I consider myself moderately knowledgeable about the sport, I don't tend to do well, mainly due to the fact that I always make a few gutsy picks that rarely work out), but you never know.
My picks after the jump.
First Round: In the two 16 seed games, I'll take North Carolina A&T and LIU Brooklyn, while in the other two games I'm going with Middle Tennessee State and Boise State.
Midwest: All four regions have their intriguing aspects, but this is probably the most interesting overall, with as many as seven teams that I think have a decent shot at making it to the Final Four. In the second round, I like Louisville, Colorado State, Oregon, Saint Louis, Memphis, Michigan State, Creighton, and Duke. Following this, I'll go with Louisville, Saint Louis, Michigan State, and Duke. In the Sweet Sixteen, I have Saint Louis defeating Louisville and Michigan State eliminating Duke. Finally, I'll take Michigan State over Saint Louis: following the most important rule of picking an NCAA tournament bracket, which is that you don't pick against a Tom Izzo coached squad in March.
West: Here I like Gonzaga, Wichita State, Wisconsin, Kansas State, Belmont, New Mexico, Notre Dame, and Ohio State in the second round, followed by Gonzaga (although Wichita State will be tough for them), Kansas State, Belmont (I always have at least one double digit seed in the Sweet Sixteen), and Ohio State. Sweet Sixteen? Let's go with Gonzaga and Ohio State. Finally I have Ohio State beating the Bulldogs to advance to the Final Four.
South: Kansas, North Carolina, VCU, Michigan (was tempted to take South Dakota State here), UCLA, Florida, Oklahoma (I have to pick my Sooners in at least one game, plus I honestly do think they'll win), and Georgetown. Then I'll take Kansas, Michigan, Florida, and Georgetown, followed by Kansas over Michigan and Florida over Georgetown. Finally, I have Kansas reaching the Final Four.
East: On the surface, Indiana seems to have a pretty easy road relative to the other #1 seeds. Outside of maybe Miami, none of the other top four seeds look like they can challenge the Hoosiers. But I'm looking at that #6 spot and wondering if I dare pick Butler to make another Final Four (you don't have to believe me, but I actually picked them to make the Final Four during the year of their first national title trip*). But first things first: I'll pick Indiana, Temple, California, Syracuse, Butler, Marquette, Illinois, and Miami (FL). Next I'll take Indiana, Syracuse, Butler, and Miami to reach the Sweet Sixteen. I believe Indiana will defeat Syracuse handily (I don't see anyone challenging them in their first three games), and Butler vanquishing Miami in a close contest.
Now, here's the question: Butler beat Indiana during the regular season, but it could easily have gone the other way. Will it here? It very well might, and maybe picking another improbable Butler run is foolish. But I'm going to do it anyway. You heard it here first: I'm picking Butler to head back to the Final Four for the third time in four years.
Final Four: So, that's Michigan State, Ohio State, Kansas, and Butler. From there, I'll take the Spartans and Jayhawks. And while Tom Izzo has coached quite a few Michigan State teams to the Final Four, he has only won one championship (and that was a while ago). I don't think he'll get his second, which means I have Kansas winning it all.
* Seriously, I'm telling the truth. But I admit that this is one of the only upset picks I've actually gotten right over the years. More often, my bracket is a disaster after the first weekend, so don't take these picks as advice about how to fill out your own. You will likely be sorry if you do.